Turn your leftover steak, chicken, pork or turkey into a brothy Mexican bean soup. See the Notes at the bottom for details on making the beans and more.
1 jalapeno or serrano chile (or less or more to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/2 cup diced yellow onions
1 quart brothy pinto beans (see notes)
Roughly 1/2 cup - 1 cup cooked chicken, turkey, steak or pork, diced into small pieces
About 1/3 of a bunch of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped into large attractive pieces or left whole
3-4 scallions, sliced
Optional: shredded or crumbled cheese such as cotija, Monterrey jack, queso fresco, queso blanco or ricotta salata
1. Remove the stem from the chile and cut it in half across the middle. Mince one half, then slice the other half into thin rounds and set aside to use as a garnish on the finished soup.
2. Warm a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the oil, followed by the onions and minced chiles. Saute for about 10-12 minutes until soft. Pour in the brothy beans and the meat. Set the lid askew, turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and let the flavors come together for about 5-10 minutes.
3. Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed (this will depend on how well-salted your beans and meat were when you started). Serve with a sprinkle of cheese and a generous scattering of cilantro and scallions over the top of each bowl.
This recipe could just as easily have been called Leftovers Heated Up Together (but let’s be honest: who would click on that?). And actually, if you came to my house and ate this right now (which would be so fun!), you would fall madly in love with this dish and demand the recipe from me. And I’d probably reply with something completely unhelpful, like “well, it’s just leftovers heated up together” and then where would we be? (This, my friends, is why we have recipes.)
And so, it’s a recipe, complete with sexy title. And it’s soooo good!! And you know what? Sometimes we need leftovers heated up together, because we’ve got the leftovers, and we’ve got hungry humans, and we’ve got very little time. And we’re still entitled to something delicious, aren’t we?
I say YES, dangit, we are! And actually, this is a teensy bit more sophisticated than simply leftovers heated up together, since you’re going to gussy those leftovers up with sauteed onions and chiles, and end with all those fancy garnishes. But still.
So here it is:
If your house functions like my house, you very likely think to yourself from time to time, “hey, since I’m cooking anyway, why not just cook a little extra so I have enough for a couple of meals, instead of just one?” (You’re such a smart cookie.) And so you’ve cooked an extra pork chop or steak or chicken thigh, and there it sits in the fridge, quietly reminding you of your good intentions every time you open the door.
Now let’s talk about the beans. I use leftover Mexican-Style Beans for this soup. When I call for “brothy beans,” I mean that the beans themselves take up about half or two-thirds of the volume, and the rest is broth. If your beans are not as brothy as that, just add water to thin them to a soup-like consistency.
The only thing with beans is that they change character over time. On Day 1, you’ll probably have a pot full of individual beans in a somewhat clear, thin broth. Over the next couple of days, the broth will turn the same beautiful brown color as the beans, and will thicken a bit. So, depending on where you’re at in the micro-lifespan of your particular batch of beans, your soup may or may not look exactly like the pictures on this page. It’s all good.